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Godzilla, default

August 2017


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Godzilla, default

The curious fate of Operation Mars:

Inspired by here: 


Stalingrad, the WWII version of Verdun and the Somme, is one of the most famous battles of WWII. It has attracted the most attention of any of the individual Axis-Soviet War battles because it marked the true end of German power to win the war (not to get a stalemate, note, just to win). The battle has some of those simultaneously awe-inspiring and sinister moments that mark the Axis-Soviet War taken to a key point, such as Rodimstev's group, and the terrible fighting around Mamayev Kurgan. And it ended with the success of Operation Uranus, and with the southern USSR cleared of German invaders.

Yet what is truly interesting from a historical point of view is that Uranus was the smaller of two simultaneous, planned offensives. The larger one, Mars, was to be essentially Bagration, targeting a salient near the city of Rhzev. Where Stalingrad became a smashing success, Mars was a complete and utter clusterfuck.

The whole clusterfuck is summarized here:


The simplest explanation of Mars's failure is that at Stalingrad complete tactical and strategic surprise was achieved. While with Mars, Soviet troops were attacking head-long into built-up defensive positions with the same superiority of numbers locally that they enjoyed in most theaters of the war (in another irony after the bloodbath of 1941 across the whole front Nazi and Soviet numbers were until the final days of the war equal). This simple explanation, however, ignores that while in the end the Axis-Soviet War's history was written from self-serving personal memoirs of German generals and the Soviet history was rewritten whenever convenient, the bloodbath near Rhzev was ignored by Germans and Soviets alike. Like at Fredericksburg in the US Civil War, Rhzev showed that superiority of numbers and materiel could not on its own have won the war for the Soviet Union any more than it would have for the North.

However in the Soviet historiography, Stalingrad accumulated a just and deserved focus that vastly overshadowed this failed bloodbath, while the German needed to ignore it because it pointed out that their excuses to avoid facing the reality that the Soviets kicked their asses from Kalinin and Kaluga to Berlin were self-serving lies. Ironically Western historians have only found out about Rhzev since the Soviet archives were opened in 1991. This is one of the most fascinating examples of how history, written by the losers, can also be selectively written by the victors.

I intend to restart the Long Dark Night (my world wars series) again either tonight or tomorrow, and in that series when I get to WWII I'll be pointing out the Curious Case of Andrei Vlasov, another example of how history written by the loser was also ignored by the victor........